Review: Rat Queens: Braga #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art: Tess Fowler
Following a few months of absence and impatience, Rat Queens makes a special comeback before the series continues. This special, Braga #1, astoundingly focuses on the secondary character of Braga and is written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and guest-illustrated by Tess Fowler following the swift firing of Roc Upchurch last year.
In keeping with the title’s penchant for diverse and compelling characters, this issue focuses on transgender orc Braga, who previously appeared as part of the Peaches. #1 gives the reader insight into Braga’s previous identity as Broog, son of the chieftain of their clan. Braga’s current beau asks her to divulge stories from her past, and we are taken immediately back to the carnage of the battlefield. Broog confides in his close companion Kiruk in his tiredness of the clan’s bloody warfare and asinine grudges. As the eldest son of the chieftain and a tremendous warrior, Broog is expected to take the mantle from his father; this is far from Broog’s intention, and the results of his insubordination are pretty bloody. But amazing and exciting to read.
Rat Queens is known and celebrated for being a refreshing take on old-timey-tales and typical fantasy literature. Its self-awareness and dark humour is what sets it apart from other titles, as well as its succinct exploration of themes like identity and gender politics. Braga #1 is no exception, and what is most impressive is how Wiebe has managed to create a story so poignant and layered in such a brief outing. The execution of such a poignant and entertaining story within the confines of 23 pages indicates how talented Wiebe and the Rat Queens team are. The writing is as quick and foul-mouthed as ever, but he manages to conjure sensitive and tactful dialogue throughout too.
It is good that Wiebe does not focus on Braga’s transition, instead emphasising that the story and character transcend her gender identity. Furthermore, Wiebe successfully presents Braga in the present as a content, sexual and well-adjusted person. As a series, Rat Queens is inclusive and actively engages us in such varying types of characters, which makes for constantly exciting and thoughtful comic reading.
It is a real shame Fowler is only a guest artist given the sublime work she does in Braga #1; she conveys Braga’s torment and contentedness in equal measure beautifully and creates a division between the two worlds of past and present perfectly. The fight scenes are gloriously gratuitous, contrasting the horrific violence in the foreground with a plain, often subtle backdrop to great effect. As is always the case with Rat Queens, the reader indulges in this bloody carnage, which in turn paces the story perfectly too. Expressive and vibrant, we can only hope Fowler becomes a more consistent presence in Rat Queens as the series continues.
Rat Queens: Braga #1 is a sublime comic: it exceeds the stellar precedent previous issues of Rat Queens had already set. Wiebe’s decision to further demonstrate Braga as a fun and engaging character is spot on, and it will be interesting to see how she will develop as the series continues. If this is any indication of what to expect from the new series, it looks like we won’t be disappointed.